It’s no less bizarre a decade and a half later than it was that night.
The night A.J. Pierzynski pulled a playoff win out of nowhere.
If you’re still arguing whether or not the ball hit the dirt, you’re missing the point. Fifteen years later, the White Sox long the winners of that game, that series and that world championship, watching Pierzynski run to first base and flip the 2005 ALCS on its head is like watching a movie you never get tired of.
Yeah, I know the Avengers win in the end, but that doesn’t mean I’m able to take my eyes off the screen.
Nothing about running to first base after you’ve already been called out fits our typical parameters for sports greatness. Pierzynski didn’t deposit a walk-off homer into the bleachers. He didn’t use blazing speed to beat out an infield hit. He swung at a pitch he immediately knew he shouldn’t have. He screwed up. What’s so great about that?
But baseball is entertainment, let’s remember. And there might not be any better form of sporting entertainment than seeing something you’ve never seen before — and haven’t seen since.
So I’ll argue that this is one of baseball’s greatest moments. Because it’s absolutely insane.
Pierzynski, apparently playing a different game in his head than the one the Los Angeles Angels were playing on the field, ignored the rules of the sport. Home-plate umpire Doug Eddings made a fist, made the call, and Pierzynski took off. Better safe than sorry, he must have thought, and indeed he did end up safe. I’m sorry?
The Angels stood around watching Pierzynski like he had sprouted octopus tentacles on his way down the base line. Mike Scioscia, their manager, was outraged, and rightfully so, that not only did Pierzynski flat-out ignore that he’d already been called out, but that the umpires then seemed to ignore that they’d already called him out, too. Everything about it pointed to Scioscia being involved in the most elaborate episode of “Punk’d” that Ashton ever drew up.
Somehow, Pierzynski was safe. He didn’t even stay on the field long enough to witness the end of Scioscia’s pleadings with the umpires, bounding into the dugout with Pablo Ozuna taking his place as a pinch runner. Three pitches later, Joe Crede brought Ozuna home with a walk-off double. The White Sox won.
And everyone was still trying to figure out how.
We might never have an adequate explanation, part of what makes this all so continually hilarious.
But what was abundantly clear that night was that the White Sox offense needed a wake-up call. The South Side bats that used small ball, Paul ball and over-the-wall ball to win 99 games during the regular season and beat the brains out of the defending champs in the ALDS did none of those three things during the first 17.2 innings of this series. The lone run they scored in the first 8.2 innings of Game 2 came home on a ground out.
The pitching was sensational, of course, with Jose Contreras coming two outs away from making the eventual complete-game streak five instead of four in Game 1 and Mark Buehrle delivering what he called one of the best games of his career — before the no-hitter and the perfecto, of course — in Game 2. That pitching kept the White Sox close, holding the Angels to a grand total of four runs in two games, the same amount the White Sox scored.
But when Pierzynski baffled the baseball universe, he also lit the fuse on the White Sox offense. All it took was three pitches for Crede to blast a double to left field and win Game 2. Two nights later, in Game 3, the White Sox hung a crooked number in the first inning, getting an over-the-wall ball from Konerko. They banged out 11 hits in Game 3. Another three-run first followed in Game 4, thanks to another Konerko homer, and the White Sox scored eight runs for their third straight win.
The offense came back. Sleepy as could be in the wake of the sweep of the Red Sox, the franchise’s first playoff series win in 88 years, the offense was awoken by, of all things, a strikeout.
Play to the whistle? Hell, play past the whistle. You just might win a playoff game.
Keep reliving the White Sox march to the 2005 World Series with #SoxRewind, which features Game 3 of the ALCS, airing at 7 p.m. Thursday on NBC Sports Chicago.